Evan's unfaithfulness was utterly devastating. I'd never been hit so hard emotionally, and I could barely think.
I watched surprise flit across his face as I slammed my helmet back on, fired up the bike and roared out of the lot. I drifted sideways into the street without checking traffic, rear tire smoking, then straightened the bike up and opened the throttle. I followed the familiar route back to the freeway and dropped onto the ramp for home.
The queasy burn of betrayal churned through my gut as I tried to put the miles behind me as quickly as I could, but reaction set in and pretty soon I was shaking so hard that I finally had to pull over. I barely got the kickstand down and my helmet yanked off before my stomach heaved. Staggering away from the bike, I dropped to my hands and knees and puked my guts out into the dusty roadside weeds.
Finally, when I was just gagging up drool, I sat back on my heels with my hands braced on my thighs, my body shuddering, crying in huge, wrenching sobs that hurt my rib cage. Crying by the side of the road, surrounded by trash and empty cans and vomit, wasn't something I ever thought I'd be doing, but then I hadn't figured on Evan cheating on me either.
After a few minutes, I started to calm down enough to be aware of the cars whizzing past at 80 miles an hour. I pushed to my feet, wiping my eyes on the sleeve of my jacket as I walked unsteadily back to the Pan. I blew my nose and wiped my mouth on the rag I kept under the seat. After wadding some gum into my mouth, I pulled my helmet back on and kicked the engine to life. In another few minutes, I was pretty sure I could drive safely, so I pulled into traffic, accelerated hard, and left the love of my life behind.
Just on the other side of the city, I took the turnoff to the lake where I kept the boat and checked into a motel that was right on the water with a little bar next door. Fuckin' perfect. I could get shit faced and only have to walk fifty feet to go to bed, not that I thought I'd be able to sleep anyway. I parked the bike, threw my stuff in the room, and headed next door to get drunk. I was past being angry, and felt myself sinking into stunned despair. Evan knew I'd been burned before. For him to violate the trust between us hurt so bad I thought I was gonna barf again.
Five quick beers later, I didn't feel any better, so I waved the waitress over to order another. She eyed the empties on the table and then surveyed my gloomy expression with a practiced eye.
"Had a fight with your honey?" she asked, hand on hip, snapping her gum. I nodded morosely. "Well, just remember, sugar," she said, before sashaying off, "there's always two sides."
She went to get my beer, and I mulled over what she'd said, belatedly (and begrudgingly) realizing there were all sorts of explanations for what I'd seen. I picked up the beer and walked carefully down to the dock, where I sat on the end and let my feet swing over the water like I used to when I was a kid. The lake sounds were familiar and soothing, and I tried to relax and sort out my tangled emotions.
Being in love sucked the big weenie when things weren't going right. I wanted Evan in my life with a longing so strong it physically hurt sometimes; a deep yearning that frightened me a little. That kind of need makes you vulnerable to every slight and harsh word, real or imagined.
But I hadn't imagined Evan with another guy, had I? I'd fuckin' seen it with my own two eyes.
The sun went down over the water in a soft wash of pink and orange, winking out to leave behind a gray twilight that reminded me of Evan's eyes - like I needed reminding. He was all I could think about as I sat there alone in the dusk, feeling sorry for myself. So far he'd proven to be as good a man as he'd first seemed - kind, thoughtful, loving - and now that the initial shock had worn off, I just couldn't make myself believe that he'd cheat on me.
When it was full dark, I went back to my room, still upset, but needing to hear his voice. I called his cell, but it rang and rang, not even going into message mode. I was too loaded to risk driving back to his place or on home, so I fell onto the bed fully clothed, staring at the ceiling, feeling like a drunken, `sorta-betrayed-but-probably-not,' `maybe-I'm-being-a-horse's-fuckin'-ass' jerk.
I felt worse in the morning, with breath that could've set fire to the curtains and clothes that looked like I'd slept in a dumpster, and was pretty darn sure that I'd fucked up royally. Shaky with hunger and nerves, I downed two cups of coffee and a plate of dry toast at the restaurant, and still felt like shit, so I walked around a little after I ate to make sure I wasn't gonna puke it all back up.
Evan still didn't answer his phone, and as I got the bike ready, I was filled with a hollow loneliness that I had hoped to never feel again. I rode slowly, cruising along the back roads with the sun warm on my back and the chill of winter in the air, but even a nice ride on the Pan didn't help my mood. I took the long way home, stretching the twenty minute ride into a couple hours, and pulled into my drive around noon. When I went next door to liberate the dog, Callie pushed open the storm door and eyed me for a moment, taking in my disheveled appearance.
"Tough night?" she asked, one eyebrow arched.
"Yup," I said abruptly, not in the mood for chit chat. "Where's Chew?"
"At your place... with Evan."
I looked up at her sharply. "Evan's here?" I looked around for his car and spotted it a few houses up the street. I'd come in the other way, so I hadn't noticed it.
"He arrived late yesterday afternoon and came over to ask if I knew where you were. When I told him you'd gone to surprise him, he looked pretty upset, so I had him stay for supper, and then sent him home with Chewy and a pie."
"Oh, God," I sighed. "Well, thanks, Callie."
I shook my head. Fuck me. Fuuuuuck me.
She looked at my sour expression. "Did you do something stupid?"
"Well, go fix it."
She shut the door in my face, hard enough that I knew she was pissed at me. I stood there on her porch for a second, gathering up my tattered courage, then walked slowly across our lawns and up my front steps, pausing with the key in my hand, wondering what the hell I was gonna say. My gut was tight with dread, and I was about to turn around and get back on the bike to go God knows where when the door opened. Evan stood there looking at me with those rainy gray eyes, dark now, his expression somber.
He didn't say anything, but he held the door wider, so I walked in past him, dropping my pack and helmet in the hall and turning into the kitchen. He followed me and leaned his butt back against the counter with his arms and ankles crossed while I got a glass of water and sat down at the table. Although he was silent, his closed body language told me I was in trouble. I sipped my water and stared into the glass like the secrets of the universe were hidden in there, trying hard to get the words out.
Now that I was with him, I was pretty damn sure I'd been wrong about what I'd seen in the parking lot. I just didn't know how to say it, but he wasn't talking, so I finally jumped in.
"Sooo... I guess that was a friend of yours I haven't met yet. A really young, really close friend."
I glanced up at him and tried a hint of a smile, but he just looked at me, and in those flinty eyes I could see that he was very angry. His stare was so intimidating that I finally had to look away for a second.
"That was my cousin Ben; I'll tell you about him later. First - what in Christ's fucking name were you thinkin' back there?"
His cousin. Fuck.
"How the fuck was I supposed to know who it was? It looked pretty goddamn bad, and it freaked me out when I saw you with another guy." I looked away from him, feeling cornered and defensive. "Fuck, Evan. Why didn't you answer your phone?"
"Because I needed to see your face when we talked about this." He came over and sat down next to me. "When I saw you, I was surprised, and then really happy to see you. But when I realized that you'd seen me with Ben and that's why you ran - I was hurt and angry. And then I finally got worried when you didn't come home last night."
I stared at the floor. "Sorry."
It was all I could manage, but it wasn't enough for Evan.
"Why did you split?" When I didn't reply, he continued. "Look, man, I've told you all kinds of shit that was difficult for me to talk about because I felt you needed to know. I know I've still got problems from the accident, but because you know about them, I feel like we can deal with it - together. But if you don't tell me what's going on in your head... I don't know."
I felt his eyes on me for a moment before he stood up and paced around the room in frustration. Finally, he stopped right in front of me. His voice was low and tight as he gave me his ultimatum. "Jeff... if you can't trust me with the hard stuff... maybe this isn't gonna happen."
The only sound in the kitchen was the hum of the fridge, and in the silence after Evan's words, it sounded like a 747 ramping up for takeoff. I closed my eyes and pressed the heels of my hands into them until I thought my eyeballs would explode.
To tell Evan why I'd split would expose every insecurity I had, right down to the bone; the doubts that had haunted my dreams as a kid, the guilt that still occasionally kept me awake at night. But there was no way I was gonna let him just walk out of my life; my balls were big enough to do this. I blew out a resigned breath, leaned forward with my elbows on my spread knees, and began to talk to the toes of his socks.
"My old man split right before I was born. My... mom reminded me of that every chance she got. 'If it wasn't for you, he'd still be here.'" I stopped to let my voice steady. "I spent a lot of time wondering what I'd done and if I could... fix it somehow."
I paused. I hated talking about this shit, and I was about to tell Evan things I'd never admitted to anyone, not even to Chewy in the lonely 3am darkness of my living room on those nights when sleep wouldn't come.
"Then she died, and I pretty much figured that was my fault, too. My sister took me in, but... we didn't get along real well, although I think that was mostly my fault. When I met the guy I told you about and that fell apart, I decided I was jinxed or something." I realized I was jiggling my left knee up and down at ninety miles an hour and forced myself to sit still. "And then..." I swallowed hard cause this was the tough part. "When I saw you with that guy, I figured..."
My throat closed and I simply couldn't say it.
I stared at the floor as a wave of cold sweat swept over me, chilling the back of my neck, waiting for Evan's socks to turn around and head for the door. But then he squatted down between my feet and gripped my wrists with cold, hard hands.
"You figured what?" he said softly as he looked up into my face.
"I figured that... that... you were leaving me, too." My voice broke as I rushed the last few words out, and I tucked my chin to my chest so that I wouldn't have to look at him. He was silent for a moment, and then he dropped his forehead down onto my fisted hands.
"Ahhh, Jeff." His voice was heavy with sadness. "You asshole."
When Evan released my wrists and stood up with a sigh, my heart clenched so hard that I groaned. He turned away from me and walked slowly to the back door, gazing out as he spoke.
"When have I ever given you reason to believe that I would do something like that to you?" He never had, of course, and when I didn't reply, he turned to face me, angry again. "When?" I jumped when he shouted. "God! How the hell could you think that, even for a minute?"
He put his face in his hands, and for some reason the gesture terrified me. "Evan—"
"Shut up!" he yelled in an unsteady voice before scrubbing his hands roughly over his face and then lowering them to stare at me. His eyes were red and watery with unshed tears, and the hurt in them finally broke my meager control.
"I'm sorry," I got out before one hard sob escaped my throat. I gritted my teeth and choked back the rest, breathing in big hitching gulps as I tried to banish thoughts of a future without Evan from my mind. I hung my head, fingers dug deep into my thighs, fighting to get my breathing under control.
The fridge had shut off, so the only sounds for the next couple minutes were my raspy breathing, Evan's sniffles, and poor Chewy whining under the table.
Since Evan was sock-footed, I didn't hear him coming until he was right in front of me, kneeling down between my feet. My eyes met his for a split second before he wrapped his arms around me, burying his face in my chest, and I saw that the anger was gone from his face, leaving behind the sadness I'd heard in his voice earlier. I grabbed onto him like a drowning man, holding him tightly in an effort to stop his trembling. We stayed like that for several minutes, rocking back and forth, wiping our noses on each other's shoulders.
Finally, he stood and straddled my legs. I held his hips as he nestled his crotch down into mine, took my head in his hands, and leaned down until our foreheads were touching.
"I understand how what you saw might have looked like more than it was, but you have to promise me - promise me" - he shook me hard enough to clack my teeth together - "that if anything weird ever happens again, you'll give me a chance to explain. No more runnin' off. You have to trust me at least that much. Ok?"
I nodded my head, but he wasn't satisfied. "Say it. Say you won't run away again."
I sat back enough to look at him. His face was very pale, and in it I could see the strain of last night and today in the lines around his eyes and mouth. "I promise that I won't split without giving you a chance to explain, no matter what it looks like."
He stared at me another moment, making sure I really meant it, I guess, then pulled me back to him, crushing me against his chest, holding me tight enough to hurt.
"And I promise the same. Fuck, you scared me. I don't know all your hang outs, so I didn't know where the hell to look for you. I figured you'd have to come home sooner or later, so I came here. Callie fed me."
"Yeah, she said."
After a moment, he leaned back to look at me, his nose wrinkled in distaste.
"Where'd you sleep last night? You don't smell so hot."
"Little motel up by the lake." I loosened my hold on him. "Let me go shower."
He watched me as I left the room, but made no move to follow. I undressed in the bedroom, and then went in to start the water. As I waited for it to get hot, I glanced in the mirror with a grimace. My flat, greasy hair and the dark circles under my eyes, combined with the shadow of my beard, made me look older and kind of sinister. I shook my head in disgust and stepped into the shower stall. The water felt great and I turned it real hot, like maybe I could boil away my troubles. I scrubbed until my skin tingled, lathered my hair twice, then shaved in front of the mirror and brushed my fuzzy teeth for five solid minutes.
Well, I looked better than I felt, that was for sure. I had halfway expected Evan to join me in the shower, but he hadn't, and now I was beginning to think it was going to take a while for him to forgive me.
When I walked back into the kitchen, Evan was flipping a grilled cheese sandwich onto a plate, which he handed me as I walked by. "Eat," he said. I poured milk for both of us, watching him as he turned off the stove, grabbed the Fritos, and pulled out a chair. He glanced at me as he sat down, then smiled slightly and nodded at my plate. "Eat."
It was a silent meal. I badly needed Evan's reassurance, but I was still feeling uncertain enough about the whole thing that I didn't press him. When we were finished, he took my hand and led me down the hall to the bedroom. We lay down fully clothed, facing each other, knees bumping, still holding hands. Our eyes met and held, and I didn't know what to say to him, except...
"I'm really sorry," I whispered.
His eyes bore into mine for a moment before he replied. "I know. It's ok."
I was almost afraid to say it to him in case he didn't say it back, but I needed more than `ok.' "I love you."
He sighed. "I know you do, Jeff. I love you, too, despite the fact that I was so fuckin' pissed I coulda killed you." He gave me another hard look. "Do you understand why I was so angry?"
Cause I was an asshole? "I think so. Because I assumed that you were... with that guy. Ben. Because I didn't trust you."
"No. I mean, yes, I was pissed that you'd think that, but I was mostly angry cause you scared the fuck outta me. Once I realized what you thought you saw, I knew how hard it would hit you. And when you left the parking lot like a fucking maniac, I was afraid you'd kill yourself before you calmed down enough to drive safely."
He paused for a moment. "Callie talked me out of going to look for you. She said you'd never leave Chewy for long, so I stayed on the couch all night, waking up every time I heard anything that sounded like the Pan."
"God. I'm so sorry, Evan. I just..." I shrugged. "I couldn't think. I just had to get away. A few hours later, I knew I was probably wrong, but I couldn't get a hold of you, and I was too drunk to ride home."
"Well, at least you were that smart," he said with a smirk.
We spent the next hour lying there together, talking a little, kissing a little, working our way past our first big misunderstanding, and, eventually, we ended up naked and joined. I was afraid that maybe I'd put a permanent dent in what we had going, but Evan's response to me was strong and I felt we were gonna be okay.
"What a homecoming, huh?" I said later, against the soft skin at the back of his neck. "I just wanted to surprise you. I couldn't wait until you got home and drove clear up here. Shit."
"It's ok," he told me again, pressing my hand to his chest. "Just remember that it's me who's in love with you, not some asshole who's gonna do you wrong."
"I know. I knew that, but... I'll remember," I promised him. "Tell me about Ben."
"He's my mom's sister's kid. He turned 21 on Monday and on Wednesday he told the family he's gay. I guess it went okay. I sorta I paved the way for him, although my uncle made some comment about defective genes since both the girls, our moms, turned out queer sons. They're divorced; he was just there cause Ben asked him to come over for his `announcement.'"
He shifted around to face me. "Anyway, Ben told me when he was 17 that he thought he liked boys, and we've talked a lot since then. He called me the first time he got kissed, all wound up and excited. It was so cute. He's going to school in Colorado and just came home for this; he picked me up from the airport so we could have a chance to talk before he flies out tomorrow morning."
"Well, shit, I wrecked your visit. I'm sorry." I felt bad all over again.
"Don't worry about it. He'll be back home for Christmas; we'll get together with him then. Speaking of which, do you wanna spend it here or at my place?"
"Well... your place makes more sense, I guess. That's where everyone is." Said like that, it just emphasized the fact that I had no one. Then I thought of Callie, who I wouldn't see much after I moved. "Or maybe Christmas Eve here with Callie, then run down to Patterson Christmas morning? That ok?"
He smiled at me. "Sure. What did you get her?"
"Baking lessons." I shook my head when Evan's eyebrows shot up. If there was one person we knew who didn't need baking lessons, it was Callie. "No, she'll love 'em. It's with some French guy she watches on the pies-r-us channel or whatever the hell it is. He'll be in the city in February, so I bought her a spot in the two-day class. She'll flip when she finds out she'll be on TV."
Evan was still chuckling when we got up and started thinking about dinner. We went into town, did some grocery shopping, and decided to have Callie over since she'd fed Evan the night before, and this would probably be one of the last times we'd both be here. We came home with more bags than I buy in a month, but Evan promised that the spaghetti to end all spaghettis would emerge from the bottles and cans and packages we'd bought.
Apparently, he knew how to make something more than French toast and scrambled eggs, after all.
He was right about the spaghetti, and we had a great time. Callie told us about her childhood in Prague, making it sound like a fairy tale of nannies, pet goats, and lavish birthday parties. Kinda like the Sound of Music via Hungary. I wasn't sure how much of it was true since she'd pretty much led me to believe that she was a penniless orphan, but it was a fun evening. We walked her to her door, and then continued on, with Chewy coursing back and forth ahead of us.
Evan put an arm over my shoulders, pulling me close to his side. "That first night that I saw you massaging your nuts on the tank of that bike, I knew something was gonna happen between us."
I smiled at him, remembering how tongue-tied I'd been around him that time. "You looked so good, standing there in the light... and your voice did something to me. Still does."
Evan stopped and turned to me, putting his other arm around me in a loose hug.
"I want this to be forever, Jeff."
His voice was husky with emotion and muffled against my neck, but every word came through loud and clear. I felt the tightness in my stomach begin to loosen up, and I gave a thankful sigh.
"Me, too." I tightened my arms around him until he grunted. "Oh, God, me, too."
'The Big Chill' was on when we got home, so we flopped on the couch. I watched that movie every time it was on just for the great music. Evan was lying on his side with his head in my lap. I had one hand down the back of his unbuttoned jeans, with my middle finger in its favorite spot - tucked into the warmth of his ass crack - and the other was stroking his hair. That night was the real beginning for me, the point at which I truly believed that Evan and I would be together until one of us died.
We went to bed after the movie, and sharing the bathroom with him got to me for some weird reason, knowing that soon we'd be brushing our teeth together and pissing in the same toilet for the rest of our lives. Maybe it was all the emotion of earlier today, maybe it was the thrill of having him home after three endless weeks. I don't know, but suddenly I felt again the soul-wrenching ache that I'd experienced when I'd seen him yesterday with Ben.
I yanked the toothbrush out of my mouth. "I can't do this anymore," I mumbled through a mouthful of suds.
He looked startled. "Do what?"
"Be apart from you for another month or two, except for weekends; waiting until we're together to start living again. I need to be with you." As I spoke, the urgency of it surged through me. I spit, threw my toothbrush in the sink, and grabbed him. "I need to be with you," I repeated, more desperately this time.
"Ok, ok." He held me with one hand while he finished his teeth, then pulled me close, patting my back as I clutched him. "It's ok, we'll figure it out. Just come home with me tomorrow. Chewy will have to be a condo hound for a few weeks. You can walk him a lot, and my mom will take him if we want to go somewhere."
I clung to him, wondering where all this need had come from. I'd entered this relationship thinking I'd be the stronger of the two of us, intending to smooth life out for Evan, be there for him to lean on since he'd already been through so much, but here I was, practically blubbering on his shoulder again.
The knot in my stomach eased some more as we climbed into bed. The ritual of settling in for the night had become something I looked forward to, a little routine that ended the day perfectly. One of us usually lay on his back and the other on his side, hands on each other. We'd talk and kiss for a while. Sometimes it turned into more and we'd make love. Other times, we'd doze off, and then wake enough to turn onto our sides facing the same direction and curl up together. We almost always woke up apart - Evan was a sprawler - but I loved starting the night with his smooth warm butt nestled back into my lap.
Tonight he backed into me immediately; seemed we both needed a little reassurance. I burrowed my face into the smooth skin of his back and slid one hand down his belly until I came to the soft weight of his balls, resting on his thigh. I had developed a real 'thing' for Evan's nuts and took them in my hand every chance I got. The intimacy of the gesture always made me feel very close to him, and tonight I really needed that. We fell asleep without saying much, talked out from this afternoon, I guess.
Sunday morning we went through my place, tagging almost all of my furniture to give away, and then packed up a bunch of my stuff and loaded both our cars with as much as we could. We'd still have to make another trip back here to empty out my bay at the garage and to pick up the Pan, but we had the stuff that I needed to live and work for a while.
We decided to leave the boat where it was for now. We could always store it in the barn if we wanted to have it close by. There were a bunch of lakes around Patterson, but I didn't know anything about them yet. The day Kenny had gotten such a kick out of riding in the Jeep with the top off, I'd wondered how he'd like a ride in the boat.
As I was going through the bedroom, I came to the box of condoms in the bedside table drawer, and smiled a little. I'd lost count of how many dozen Evan and I had gone through since we'd met. But no more. A couple weeks ago we'd made an appointment with his family doctor and the results had come in yesterday's mail - clean as a whistle. No surprise to me; no matter how drunk I'd been, or how tempted, I'd always bagged the pole before I plugged the hole.
As we worked in my office, I told him all about the new house, the way it had felt so much like home when I'd walked in the door; the big kitchen with the table and benches built into the corner; the wrap-around porch where we could spend warm evenings and rainy afternoons. He was excited to see it, so we left for Patterson around noon, him in his car, and me and Chew in the Jeep.
Before we left, I went over to say goodbye to Callie and made a date for the Sunday before Christmas for Evan and I to come up and take her to brunch. We'd had several dinners together while Evan was gone. I'd learned that the people who'd bought my place were a young couple with kids for her to spoil. Although my future was in Patterson, it was hard to drive away, knowing I wouldn't be able to just run next door for a cup of coffee and a chat. We promised to keep in touch, and then I followed Evan down the street, through town, and onto the freeway for the drive to his place.
When we got there, I called Sharon and asked if she could meet us at the house sometime today. She said she was swamped, but we could come by for a key and go without her. That sounded even better, being able to see the place with just Evan, so we jumped back in the still-loaded Jeep, and with Chewy on Evan's lap, we drove to her office.
She hopped up when we walked in the door, smiling at Evan, who recognized her instantly and pulled her into a hug which she returned with enthusiasm, laughing at how little he'd changed since she'd seen him last. I've never been big on girlfriends, but I was beginning to think I'd enjoy being pals with Sharon. She gave us a key and made sure I remembered how to get out there.
"It's the third mailbox past the farm with the round barn. I left the padlock off the gate when I was out there the other day."
"Thanks a lot," I told her. "How's the paperwork coming? My house sold, so I've gotta jam all my stuff into Evan's condo until we can move."
She looked back and forth between us for a few seconds, thinking hard, then grabbed her key ring and pulled off another key, handing it to Evan. "Here. Just go ahead and move in. Your bank delivered the check today, so as far as I'm concerned, it's a done deal. We'll sign the papers whenever they're ready."
She grinned at me when my face lit up. "God, that'd be great. We can get moved in before Christmas, and maybe we can get squared away enough to throw a New Year's house-warming party. Thanks!" I turned to Evan, who smiled at my little-kid glee.
"No problem," Sharon laughed, "just invite me to the party. And one more thing – are you interested in the four-poster bed? It's just too big for me right now, so..."
I glanced at Evan. "Well, I love it, but let me show it to Evan. Can we let you know?"
"Of course. See you later."
I practically ran to the Jeep, hot to get out to there and show the house to Evan. I turned in through the gate, and then stopped the Jeep, letting Evan gaze down the lane. You could see the red of the barn from here, something I hadn't noticed the first time, but you couldn't see the house at all. As I drove along, Evan's smile got wider, and by the time the house came into view, his grin matched mine. I parked so that he could see the front of the house, the edge of the barn, and the old swing.
"God, Jeff, it's wonderful. Even better than the pictures." He got out, turned slowly in a full circle, then came to me and wrapped me up in a hug so tight I could barely get my arms loose to hug him back.
We walked completely around the house one time, and then went inside. I got the same peaceful feeling I'd had the time I'd been here with Sharon - it just felt like `home.' I could tell Evan was feeling it, too, as he ran his hand down door frames and paused to look out windows.
He turned to me in the living room, and when my eyes met his, he grinned and I knew we were gonna christen our new home. As he shoved my sweater up to get to my chest, I undid his pants, freeing his semi-hard cock into my waiting hand. A moment later, my dick was bobbing in the chill of the uninhabited house, bumping into his as we sank to the carpet, our jeans around our ankles.
I wiggled down in between his legs as far as I could and we thrust against each other until we came, groaning into each other's mouths as our bodies jerked through the orgasms. We lay there for a bit, but I was on top and my ass was freezing, so we got dressed after cleaning up with some paper towels from the kitchen.
We took a quick look in the barn, and then headed out across the meadow. As we hiked back to the creek, I thought Chewy was gonna have a stroke. He dashed around after every rabbit and quail scent he came across, yipping and doubling back and forth like a hunting dog on speed, instead of the laid-back couch hound he usually was. The brook was cold and clear, rippling over rocks and fallen logs, looking like a postcard as it gurgled along. There was a clearing in the back left corner of the property with an old homemade picnic table, a fire pit, and big logs to sit on or lean against.
Evan pulled me to him with an arm over my shoulders. "You did good, sweetheart," he said quietly, holding me there by the brook with the dog splashing around. It was starting to get dark, so we walked back to the Jeep, unloaded most of it, and went back to the condo after stopping by the post office for change of address forms. I called Sharon on the way home and told her we'd take the bed - Evan had loved it. We made dinner, but the condo seemed cold and sterile after the homey feel of the house - our house - so after we ate, we went through his place deciding what to take and what to give away.
Evan went to work all that week while I packed most of the condo and hauled it out to the house Jeep load by Jeep load, until everything except the furniture was moved. We reserved a truck for Saturday, and told Raf and Kenny they were drafted to help.
Evan had a business dinner Thursday, so I went over to their place, taking the dog along since he hadn't met them. Raf opened the door as I was coming up the steps. He gave me a quick hug, and then held his hand down for Chew to sniff. After they made friends, we went into the kitchen where Kenny was putting the finishing touches on a salad to go with the stew bubbling in a crockpot on the counter and the big loaf of French bread sliced in a basket.
Chewy had stopped dead at the doorway into the kitchen, eyeing Kenny's chair with big eyes. When I thought about it for a second, I realized that, like me, he'd never met anyone in a wheelchair. I went over next to Kenny and squatted down, resting an arm across his leg.
"Come here, Chew, it's ok."
He sidled closer, careful to keep me between him and the scary chair. After a couple minutes of sniffing, he let Kenny pet him, but leaped out of the way when the chair moved. I chuckled at him, and he gave me one of those embarrassed `I-know-I'm-being-an-idiot-but-I-can't-help-it' looks that dogs do so well.
We ate in the kitchen, talking about moving and what it was like living with someone, something I didn't have a hell of a lot of experience at
"Shit, we didn't own anything when Evan and I got that first apartment," Raf said. "Our folks bought us the bed, and we got a ratty old couch from the Goodwill. My mom used it as an excuse to get a new set of dishes she'd had her eye on." He chuckled. "Right now you got a bunch of stuff that's 'yours' and 'his.' Wait'll the first time you try to buy something together. Kenny and I almost killed each other over our first sofa."
As Kenny shook his head and rolled his eyes, I actually had the good sense not to say something stupid like 'we'll never have a problem like that,' but it made me wonder a little. The only thing we'd ever bought together was groceries, and the only hitch there had been butter (Evan) or margarine (me). (We bought butter.)
Chewy was comfortable enough after dinner to go to Kenny when he called him, hopping up into his lap for some ear scratching. He curled up a circle and fell asleep, coming to with a start when Kenny rolled his chair into the kitchen, but he stayed in Kenny's lap, watching the furniture go by, intrigued by this new way of getting around.
Saturday morning was clear and cold. Raf, Evan, and I got Evan's condo completely loaded into the truck, and I called Kenny to let him know that we were on our way to the Farm, as I'd taken to calling it. (I just loved that our home had a name.) Kenny had stayed home to work for a few hours, and was going to pick up lunch and meet us at there. As we pulled in the long drive, I saw Sharon's CRV parked under the big tree. She came walking out the front door just as Kenny pulled in behind us with the food.
They remembered her from school and around town, and gave her big thank you hugs for selling us the Farm. She blushed and smiled, obviously pleased at their welcome, and she was very comfortable bending down to hug Kenny, which I gave her high marks for. She handled it much more gracefully than I had at first. We had to hoist Kenny and his chair up the steps onto the front porch, and I added 'ramp' to my growing list of things to do. We ate the deli sandwiches Kenny had brought, and left him and Sharon in the kitchen with instructions to put stuff wherever it seemed like it should go. Evan and I could sort it out later if we didn't like it, but I figured between the two of them, it would turn out fine, especially since Sharon had lived there and used the kitchen for years.
Evan's furniture was off the truck in just under an hour, and with it in place, the house was beginning to feel a little like ours. He had a nice pair of bookcases that we put on either side of the fireplace. Between us, we had a lot of books, so we'd need more than that, but it was a start. We put his living room stuff in the room off the kitchen, deciding to use that as the TV room, so that we could keep the living room for socializing and quiet pursuits like reading. His bedroom set went in the guest room, and we stored some miscellaneous items and all the boxes in the corner room that would be my office.
When I went to the kitchen for a glass of water and opened the correct cupboard door on the first try, Kenny and Sharon high-fived each other, laughing. We unpacked all the household stuff, working cheerfully through the afternoon. It was a good day, a day of beginnings - of my life with Evan in this house, and of our friendship with Sharon. Late in the afternoon, Raf drove the truck back to town, Kenny left a few minutes later to pick him up, Sharon went off to see her Nana, and suddenly, Evan and I were alone.
It hit him about the same time it did me, and we smiled at each other, standing there in the kitchen. He came to me and took both my hands in his. Our eyes met.
"This is it," he said and I knew exactly what he meant. He pulled me close, pressing a kiss to my cheek before dropping his face into the curve of my neck.
This was the start, the point in time where our lives began to merge, to take on a 'one'ness they didn't have when we lived apart. From here on out we'd share an address, a bed, and the hopes and heartaches of a life together. In the security of Evan's arms, I almost believed it was possible.
The house was quiet, and as we stood there, a soft chiming started up. We both raised our heads, looking around to locate the sound. An old clock that hadn't been running the only other time I'd bothered to look at it, which was when Sharon first showed me the house, sat on the small table to the right of the front door. It had been cleaned and polished, the deep red of the cherry wood gleaming in the afternoon light, ticking softly while the pendulum swung and the clock chimed the hour.
Tucked under one corner of the clock was a folded piece of paper which Evan pulled loose and opened. He read it quickly to himself, smiling, and then read it aloud to me.
From dawn's first 'tick'
To night's last 'tock'
May the days of your lives
Be measured by this clock
Grandpa gave this clock to Nana on their wedding day, along with the poem, which originally read 'our' instead of 'your.' He made it by hand out in the barn from a tree he cleared to build the house, and I think it should stay with the Farm.
You can't do much better than that for a house warming gift. I ran my finger along the curved edge, feeling the satiny smoothness of the old wood, thinking about the man who'd made this clock with his bare hands and some simple tools, from a tree he'd felled himself, probably with the axe I'd seen in the barn. Evan put his arm around my waist and we just stood there for a bit, gazing out the window at the bare, black branches of the big tree looming over the circular drive as the clock ticked away our first hour in our new home. A breeze scattered fallen leaves along the dried grass in a little swirl, and set the swing to moving slightly.
Finally, Evan heaved a sigh of great contentment, kissed my temple, and we went to see about dinner.
Well, the ending from last week certainly riled up a bunch of you. I've never gotten so many testy emails. lol If you're happy now, let me know that, too.
Thanks to David for reading and re-reading until it was good.